A Happy Anniversary

It wasn’t until  sat down to write this week’s post that I realized this month is my blog’s four-year anniversary.  (I’m embarrassed to admit that I actually thought it was my blog’s fifth anniversary until I did the math one more time.  Some of us just weren’t cut out for working with numbers….)  Anyway, I’m happy to say that the blog I started with much hope and trepidation four years ago is still going strong and that the experience has turned out to be a very good one.

It’s impossible to do something for four years straight and not learn a few things along the way.  Prior to starting my blog, I had harbored a deep distrust of the internet, and couldn’t even buy something on line without panicking at the thought of actually putting my credit card number out there in cyberspace.  The thought of putting my writing on the internet for all the world to see (and comment on) was the biggest hurdle I had to overcome before I could summon up the nerve to publish my first post.  One of the first things my blog taught me is that the using the internet isn’t quite as dangerous as I had believed.

Yes, there are hackers galore, and there are also lots of folks out there who spend their days making nasty online comments to perfect strangers just because they can.  But there are far more good people who are willing to offer encouragement, advice and kindness to the people they meet online.  One of the best things about writing a blog post is getting comments on it that expand and improve on the point I was trying to make, and that happens a lot.  I feel very lucky to have readers who are both smart and generous with their knowledge.

I’ve also learned that we humans have much more in common than I ever realized.  My intended audience was middle-aged women, mostly because that’s who I was (yes, I know at sixty I’m stretching the definition of middle age a bit) and I figured those were the people who would relate to what I had to say.  But I have regular readers who are male, and regular readers who are either younger or older than I am.  It turns out, most of the issues I struggle with aren’t restricted to middle-aged woman at all.  They’re human issues that most of us can relate to just fine, no matter what our age, sex, belief system, or nationality happens to be.  The blogging community can represent diversity at its best.

Finally, I’ve learned how important it is not to let my fears, both the reasonable and the not-so-reasonable ones, stop me from doing the things I really want to do.  I love writing and I love writing this blog, yet if I hadn’t managed to overcome my fears of “putting myself out there” on the internet, I would not have spent the past four years writing this particular blog.  And that would have been a real shame, because I would missed out on all the gifts this blog has given me:  the chance to grow as a writer, to connect with terrific people from all over the world, and the hope that (with a little luck and a lot of work) I may make it to my actual five year blogging anniversary.

The Joys of Blogging

IMG_4757It’s been over eighteen months since I started this blog, which still surprises me.  I’d be lying if I said everything has gone according to plan, mostly because I didn’t exactly have a firm plan in mind when I started this blog, but also because writing my own blog turned out to be a very different experience from anything I could have imagined.

My initial idea was to write about adjusting to this new phase of my life that is called “middle age,” and to share some of the challenges and joys that come with it.  I thought that my close friends, and possibly some of their friends (and of course my mother), would read it and leave a comment now and then.  Of course I had moments when I fantasized that my blog would be wildly successful so that I could earn big bucks from it and, more importantly, rub it in the faces of all the editors who ever rejected my manuscripts (“See what you missed out on!”), but that was never an actual plan.

But like so many things in life, the realities of blogging turned out to be quite different from my expectations.  My mother does read my blog (thanks, Mom!) and so do many of my friends, but I was pleasantly surprised by how many of my older and friends and acquaintances, some of whom I haven’t seen in decades, were also not only reading my blog, but taking the time to let me know that it spoke to them.  I had no idea my blog would reconnect me so powerfully to my past, but it did.

Although my original intention was to simply write about being middle aged, I found that even after adjusting my posting schedule to only twice a week, I soon ran out of things to say on that particular subject.  There are only so many posts I can write about fading eyesight  and memory, sprouting hair where hair does not belong, developing new wrinkles and sags on a daily basis, and adjusting to being part of the sandwich generation, etc., without repeating myself and boring my readers.  So I branched out, and began writing about other things that were going on in my life and the world around me, and nobody seemed to mind too much.  Or if they did, they were nice enough not to complain.

Of course, there are a few aspects of blogging that did go just as I expected. I have always struggled with technology, and continue to do so.  Writing my posts is the easy part, figuring out how to add links, size photos correctly, and change the format is much harder for me.  There are times when I can’t answer comments without exiting my page and then coming back to it, and sometimes I can see how many Facebook shares a post has, and sometimes I can’t.  Don’t ask me why.  When I contact the WordPress help, the answer is usually that there must be something wrong with my computer.  Of course.

Still, the nicest and most unexpected perk of blogging has been how many wonderful other bloggers I have met.  These are people who are busy writing their own blogs, and yet still take the time to leave words of encouragement and wisdom on my posts, or comments so funny that I laugh out loud when I read them.  Their blogs have become “must reads” for me, even on my busiest of days, because they are that good.  I’d like to especially acknowledge Kim over at www.kimgorman.com, who writes a wonderful blog about meeting the challenges of life with determination and grace, and whose writing never fails to inspire me.  She is a recent recipient of the Sunshine Blogger Award, and deservedly so.

I always knew that I enjoyed writing, but blogging is more than simply writing.  It’s building a community, sharing ideas, and best of all….making new and wonderful friends. Thank you all for that.

One Year Later….

One year ago, I finally worked up the nerve to start writing a blog about coping with middle age.  I’d been feeling a bit lost for a while, struggling to adjust to all the changes middle age brings, while at the same time trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  I wasn’t especially sad (although every time I look in the mirror and see the wrinkled skin on my sagging neck, I do feel like crying, just a little bit), but I did feel as if I was drifting in a strange new world that I didn’t really understand.  So it seemed like a good time to take a risk and start the blog I’d been thinking about writing for a long time, especially since I had a good friend who kept encouraging me to give it a shot.

When I wrote that first post, And Now I Really Feel Old, I was so clueless about blogging that I wasn’t even sure if the post was going to make it to the internet, but it did.  And friends and family, some of whom I hadn’t heard from in years, read it and were kind enough to tell me they enjoyed it.  That gave me the courage to keep going, even when I didn’t know how to change the format of my page, tag my posts, or any of the etiquette of interacting with other bloggers. But I kept trying, and with the help of other bloggers, I finally figured out most of what I need to know to write my blog.

My blog is not big or particularly successful.  I have only 192 followers, and the largest number of views of any of my posts is 239.  Still, I have felt rewarded for every single post I have ever written, because each one has brought a gift:  a new follower, a contact from an old friend, a reader who told me that the message in my post was exactly what they needed to hear that day, or a comment that was so funny it made me laugh out loud.  For me, that is the best kind of success.

IMG_0709Every new venture brings results we didn’t predict, and this blog is no exception.  It’s helped me reconnect with old friends and distant family.  It’s introduced me to a world of wonderful blogs written by smart, caring people who now feel like friends.  This blog has me writing regularly again, on a real schedule, which has reminded me that I truly am a writer, despite my file cabinet full of rejection letters.  Most of all, it’s taught me that, even in my late middle-age, I am not too old to try something new.  This blog has helped me find my way at a time in my life when I was just a little bit lost.

Last week I was nominated for the Blogger Recognition Award by Sandee M., who writes a great blog called the Forty-Something First Time Bride.  (Check it out, she’s a gifted writer who describes her adjustment to married life eloquently and honestly.)   As a nominee, I’m supposed to give advice to other bloggers, but I don’t think I have much to add to the advice that’s already out there, so I’ll just say this:  Do it. Take the plunge and start your blog.  Write even on the days when the words come hard, and the self-doubt creeps in.  Just keep writing, and in the end, it will absolutely be worth it.